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Halakhah in the Making

Halakhah in the Making: The Development of Jewish Law from Qumran to the Rabbis

Aharon Shemesh
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    Halakhah in the Making
    Book Description:

    Halakhah in the Makingoffers the first comprehensive study of the legal material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and its significance in the greater history of Jewish religious law (halakhah). Aharon Shemesh's pioneering study revives an issue long dormant in religious scholarship: namely, the relationship between rabbinic law, as written more than one hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, and Jewish practice during the Second Temple. The monumental discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran led to the revelation of this missing material and the closing of a two-hundred-year gap in knowledge, allowing work to begin comparing specific laws of the Qumran sect with rabbinic laws. With the publication of scroll 4QMMT-a polemical letter by Dead Sea sectarians concerning points of Jewish law-an effective comparison was finally possible. This is the first book-length treatment of the material to appear since the publication of 4QMMT and the first attempt to apply its discoveries to the work of nineteenth-century scholars. It is also the first work on this important topic written in plain language and accessible to nonspecialists in the history of Jewish law.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94503-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Aharon Shemesh
  4. Introduction: In the Beginning
    (pp. 1-20)

    In a 1990 article, “The History ofHalakhahand the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Jacob Sussman surveyed the early attempts made by the pioneers of theWissenschaft des Judentumsmovement to study the history of halakhah, the body of Jewish law that supplements scriptural law, and to chart its development.¹ The need for such research is self-evident: to bridge the gap between the Bible and the established halakhah of the Rabbis as found in rabbinic literature. Two leading scholars were in the forefront of this project: Abraham Geiger, who, as a biblical scholar, conducted his research forward in time, from the...

  5. ONE Writing Halakhah in Qumran
    (pp. 21-38)

    The library of Qumran contains a wide range of different compositions. Among them, not a few concentrate on legal issues. These scrolls are the prime source for our knowledge of the legal system of the Qumran community, though not the exclusive source. In some of the discussions to follow, we will employ information about legal subjects extracted from nonlegal sources, such as the liturgy or wisdom literature. In what follows here, I will survey and describe two main aspects of the halakhic compositions found in the caves: their literary genre and their content and intent. This is not always an...

  6. TWO Divine Revelation and Human Exegesis; Or, How to Recognize a False Prophet When You See One
    (pp. 39-71)

    As I noted at the conclusion of the previous chapter, one of the fundamental differences between the Qumran scrolls and rabbinic literature revolves around the theological dispute concerning the source for the authority of halakhah: divine or human. The Qumran scrolls present the exegesis of the Torah and consequently the halakhic decisions that stem from it as the product of divine inspiration, while the rabbinic writings treat it as an openended process of human exegetical activity. In what follows, I will argue that this aspect of the relationship between early sectarian and later rabbinic halakhic discourse is best explained by...

  7. THREE Scripture versus Tradition
    (pp. 72-106)

    Our discussions in the previous chapters concentrated on the two available bodies of halakhic literature, the scrolls from Qumran and rabbinic literature. We examined the similarities and the differences between them, at the same time taking into consideration the fact that there is a gap of some two hundred years between them. We succeeded, I hope, in detecting and describing a few developmental processes in theological assumptions and literary structures that led through the generations from one body of literature to the other.

    This chapter is an attempt to delve into the Second Temple period itself. I wish to explore...

  8. FOUR “The Foundation of the Creation” and the “Laws Written on the Heavenly Tablets”
    (pp. 107-128)

    In his frequently quoted and much-debated article, “Law and Truth: On Qumran-Sadducean and Rabbinic Views of Law,” Daniel R. Schwartz raises an interesting and important question. Schwartz challenges the common use of the term “priestly halakhah” to portray the non-Pharisaic legal system exhibited by the Dead Sea Scrolls and by the Sadducean halakhah mentioned in rabbinic literature. He rightly asks: “What do we mean by this term and what makes this halakhah priestly?”¹

    Schwartz’s explanation is actually the most developed attempt to date to characterize sectarian halakhah. He portrays priestly halakhah as realistic, as opposed to Pharisaic halakhah, which is...

  9. FIVE Halakhah from Qumran to the Mishnah: Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 129-140)

    In his article mentioned at the outset of this book, “The History ofHalakhahand the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Jacob Sussman portrayed the Sadducee halakhah as stringent, as opposed to the Pharisaic halakhah, which he saw as tending to be more lenient. Sussman was following in the footsteps of Abraham Geiger, who similarly described the “old” halakhah as severe and inflexible, as opposed to the “new” rabbinic halakhah, which he, too, saw as more flexible and tending toward leniency. The only difference between the two is that in light of the findings of the scrolls and especially the halakhic content...

    (pp. 141-150)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 151-186)
    (pp. 187-202)
    (pp. 203-208)
    (pp. 209-216)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)